The second annual LGBTI Pride is due to take place on 22 June 2019 in Swaziland /eSwatini. It comes as a newly-formed group the Eswatini Sexual and Gender Minorities (ESGM) attempts to become the first LGBTI group to be officially registered in the kingdom.
LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex) people face discrimination in all walks of life in the conservative kingdom ruled by King Mswati III as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. King Mswati reportedly described homosexuality as being ‘satanic.’ Homosexual acts are illegal.
ESGM is seeking to become registered under the Companies Act as a specifically LGBTI rights group. At present The Rock of Hope campaigns for LGBTI rights but it is also a group offering sexual health and HIV / AIDS advice.
Melusi Simelane, one of the founders of ESGM, and one of the organisers of Swaziland’s first LGBTI Pride in 2018, told MambaOnline the move was designed to bring a stronger focus on decriminalising LGBTI identities in eSwatini.
Separately, on his blog, Simelane wrote about the reality of being a gay man in Swaziland. He said, ‘I would like to believe that as a citizen of this country I am rightfully equal before the law, but I am forced by reality to believe otherwise.
‘Should I be found guilty of the sodomy offence, or even found to have had the intention to commit “sodomy”, I can be arrested without a warrant. This in accordance with the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act of 1938.
‘Furthermore, the National Register for Sex Offenders would enlist me, under clause 56 of the recently passed SODV [Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence] Act of 2018.
‘It cannot be justice to have my name branded as a sex offender for being in love, and being in a consensual loving relationship. Alas, that is what our government is saying to me.’
Swaziland is a tiny landlocked kingdom with a population of about 1.3 million people, mostly living in rural communities.
In May 2016 four organisations jointly reported to the United Nations about LGBTI discrimination in Swaziland. Part of their report stated, ‘LGBT[I]s are discriminated and condemned openly by society. This is manifest in negative statements uttered by influential people in society e.g., religious, traditional and political leaders. Traditionalists and conservative Christians view LGBT[I]s as against Swazi tradition and religion. There have been several incidents where traditionalists and religious leaders have issued negative statements about lesbians.’
In June 2018 Swaziland held its first LGBTI Pride event. It passed without incident and received positive international attention, but it also provoked a number of virulent attacks on gay people in newspapers and churches within Swaziland.
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